Wednesday 31 May 2017

Post-Crick: Day 2

This morning it was Adrian who was awake early, so once again we set off at 7.15. The level in the pound had dropped a bit overnight, and the first lock needed topping up. After that, the next three locks were all full with their top gates open.

There was loads of water between the last two locks, and i had to run some away to allow the lock to make a level. Even so, we did the five locks in 50 minutes. The run back to the marina took the usual hour and a half. We pulled up outside the marina, as Adrian had to go home to work.

I carried on first to Cosgrove where the water point was free. I started a wash load, filled the tank, and got rid of rubbish. The tap was so slow i even had time to get the bucket out and wash and dry that side of the boat.

At Cosgrove lock another boat came along so that was easier. The lady refused to go to the other side of the lock because of the swans and geese, so we just used one gate to go in, and I moved over to the other side. We used just one gate to exit too. While we were going down, a Wyvern hire boat arrived above the lock, but didn't come to the lock landing. Instead it was in the trees, then at right angles to the lock, then out in the middle again. I assume they got to land eventually.

I continued to Wolverton, and tied up in the first available space. I've been to Tesco, and also polished the towpath side of the boat, so now we're pretty respectable both sides. When the boat behind left, I pulled back so I'm on the end of the rings. I had a sleep this afternoon, even though it was very hot, as I have to go to work tonight.

8 miles, 6 locks. (77 miles, 43 locks)

Tuesday 30 May 2017

Post-Crick: Day 1

We were awake early this morning -- at least I was, which meant Adrian was too, eventually -- and we set off at around 7.15.

The first lock was in our favour, but the pound below was more than a foot down, because the next lock leaks. This is the lock they had a stoppage for, just before Crick, to try to prevent water loss. Whatever they did hasn't worked. The next few locks showed no rhyme or reason as to whether they'd be empty or full. At the penultimate lock, we found all the water missing from above. The lock was full with water pouring over the bottom gates, yet the pound was even fuller, meaning the gates wouldn't open because it was impossible to make a level. Counterintuitively, I had to raise a paddle atbthe other end and let some water flow through the lock, until the level in the pound above had dropped enough.

We completed all six locks in about an hour and a half. Unusually, all the 48 hour moorings just below the bottom lock were empty. A bit further along we passed a swan family, with all the cygnets wanting to hitch a ride. There wasn't room for all of them.

Weedon was really busy with boats, both moored and moving. At 11 we got to Heyford Fields Marina, and moored up on the outside, alongside another boat, so the BLS guys could have a look at our Eberspacher boiler. They took it out and diagnosed something that was worse than we'd hoped -- so they're keepimg it for a few days to get a part. We were there for about an hour, during which time lots of boats passed, and almost none slowed down.

Setting off again we made good progress. There was the odd shower, but sunshine in between. Between Blisworth and the tunnel there is a tree down from the offside. Someone, presumably a boater, has made just enough room to get past, but it's pretty tricky going south.

Before the tunnel a boat crew told us it was very wet in there, but actually I thought it was a lot drier than normal. We passed two boats, including the restaurant boat with a party in full swing, then another right at the far end. A boat was just about to come out the top lock when we got there, so they left the gate open for us. Another boat was coming up the second lock, so we left a gate for them. It turned out to be Julie and Tone on Muchgigglin, returning from their annual trip to London for Cavalcade and the Ivor Novello awards. We usually see them about this time.

We stopped after the second lock, in the long pound, at about 3pm. I washed and dried the towpath side of the boat, then got to work with the Craftmaster Carnuba polish we bought at Crick; the difference is amazing. Adrian ended up coming out to help with the polishing, but it's such nice polish it wouldn't take that long to do a whole boat side on your own. I ended up doing the stern doors and the forward bulkhead too, and sweeping the roof. It's turned into a nice afternoon, with the sun and blue sky appearing.

16 miles, 8 locks. (69 miles, 37 locks)

Monday 29 May 2017

Crick Show: Day 3

There was heavy rain in the night, and it has rained on and off all day. We set off for the winding hole at about 8.15, and then retraced our steps to Crick. We stopped briefly on the way at Yelvertoft for a top up of water and to get rid of rubbish. Although it was damp, the canal was still rather pretty.

Back at Crick we slotted back into our space and then went to buy all the things we couldn't get yesterday because the sellers didn't take cards. Among the people I talked to was a couple I recognised from the What A Lark blog -- the 'boat-sharers', Amanda and David. It was good to meet them.

This afternoon I was waiting for the announcement of the winners of the favourite boat. This year there was a winner and runner up for narrowboat and widebeam. Bourne Boats came top in the narrowboat category with Threpence Ha'penny, with Braidbar second. Elton Moss built the winning widebeam, and the 9ft wide Pioneer was runner up.

My second cousin, Catherine, and family (including her dad) were at the show, and joined us for the trip back down Watford Locks. As we left it rained hard, so Crick tunnel was drier inside than out. At Watford Locks there was a long and confusing queue. Some boats were going down, then five were to come up, then we were third in another batch to go down. In all, it meant a wait of about two and a half hours. Nigel and I spent quite a lot of time at resetting the top lock to help other boats, and in between we were on our boat moored under the M1 eating a fantastic cake made by Catherine.

Once we were finally going down the locks, they didn't take long at all.

We carried on to Norton Junction, where Catherine and Nigel had left a car. There was no space at the junction, either before or after the turn, so while Nigel went to get fish and chips, we went down the top Buckby lock to the long pound and moored up.

We had a very pleasant rest of the evening with good fish and chips, and because of the long delay at Watford is was around 9.30 when the family left.

11 miles, 8 locks. (53 miles, 29 locks)

Sunday 28 May 2017

Crick Show: Day 2

Last night and this morning we've been having trouble with the Eberspacher, the hot water boiler. It was producing clouds of white smoke from the exhaust, and refusing the run for very long. This morning I went up to the Boating Leisure Services stand to see Dave who knows about these things, and he reckons it needs a service. We'll call in to BLS on the way back home.

Progress on writing a couple of hundred words on each of 20+ boats has been good, so mid morning we went over to the show with a shopping list. We managed to get about half the things we wanted, but some had to wait as the stalls only took cash. We then walked up to the village for provisions and money from the cash machine. The one at the show charges.

Back at the boat there was more writing followed by lunch. Then we decided that with nothing particularly to keep us at the show site, we'd head out to the countryside for the night. The musical offering at the show is nothing special, and we needed to run the engine for hot water anyhow, so we concluded we might as well move while doing so. In addition it was a lovely day -- much better than forecast.

We set off around the corner, and immediately found two of the trip boats coming the other way, followed by the boat giving handling taster courses, followed by the third trip boat. At the winding hole, a Black Prince boat was trying to turn around, but had put its stern into the hole rather than its bow, which made things very difficult. We were there quite a while while they got themselves round and unstuck.

We continued in increasingly hot sunshine along the summit pound. It really is very pretty.

We were aiming for the place we stopped on Thursday night. Someone was in the actual spot, so we had to come a little further along. It's still nice and quiet and with a view. Since then, Adrian has been making a chili for later, and we've both been working.

5 miles, 0 locks. (42 miles, 21 locks)

Saturday 27 May 2017

Crick Show: Day 1

We had a good evening at The Moorings last night, although the menu seemed a bit more limited than in the past. It didn't really matter though, because the company was excellent.

This morning, Andy the photographer arrived early, and we were on site at around 8am, which gave him time to get a bacon butty for breakfast. We started looking at boats before 9, to get a good head start before the gates opened. By the end of the day we'd looked at 23 boats. Now I have to see whether I can read my notes, and whether they make any sense!

This is the view from the temporary bridge over the canal, from the towpath to the show site. Briar Rose is moored in the distance, the penultimate boat on the outside.

Friday 26 May 2017

Pre-Crick: Journey Day 3

The moorings at Bridge 27 were lovely; after dusk, we watched bats swooping about over the water catching insects. This morning was if anything even more sunny than yesterday. With very little distance to travel, we started a wash load before setting off, confident it would dry quickly during the day. On leaving our mooring, it was about half a mile or so to the winding hole just beyond the next bridge; having turned around, we retraced our steps back towards Crick. The countryside is pretty without beimg remarkable, and is dotted with wind turbines, which to my eyes, have a certain beauty.

When we got to Yelvertoft, We stopped to top up the water tank. We had to wait for another boat to finish, then just as we started two more boats arrived. There are two taps on the same post, though. There are also bins just along the path, so we could get rid of rubbish.

From there it was just another half hour to Crick. We'd spotted our mooring yesterday, and knew we'd be on the outside of Farne. We really wanted to be facing north, so the side hatch was on the water side, rather than up against the other boat, unable to be opened. So I did a quick turn into the marina entrance and reversed down the couple of boat lengths to our mooring. The whole manoeuvre couldn't have gone better, and we were soon tied up to the boats around us.

I went for a wander round the show site, speaking to lots of people, and after lunch we walked into Crick to get a few things from the Co-op. Sculptor, the boat from the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum has just arrived and made the turn into the marina.

This evening we're going to The Moorings restaurant with the Braidbar bunch; it's the traditional start to Crick weekend.

6 miles, 0 locks. (37 miles, 21 locks)

Thursday 25 May 2017

Pre-Crick: Journey Day 2

Another lovely sunny morning, and we were again ready to go by 7.30. At Buckby Top Lock a couple of boats were just coming down; above, Ryan on the fuel boat, Southern Cross, was getting a delivery.

We made the turn onto the Leicester Section, and then comes the stretch to Watford Locks, which always seems further than I expect. At one point I saw a squirrel jump from a tree one side of the canal to a tree the other. The distance wasn't far, but the receiving branch was pretty flimsy.

At Watford Locks, a boat had arrived just before us and was starting up. I went and found the lock keeper who said we could follow them. Adrian did the very tight turn from the seond lock into the staircase with great aplomb.

We were at the top of the locks by 9.30, and set off along the summit pound. The scenery is very typically English along here.

Crick Tunnel was, as usual, dry at the southern end and fairly drippy at the northern end. The Crick Show harbour masters were out in force, but thanks to a message from Bruce the other day we already had a good idea where our mooring was. What's more, we planned to go on further and have a night in the sticks, so we had to tell a few people that we'd be back tomorrow.

The canal is full of twists, turns, and blind bridges, and there were quite a few boats going the other way including some we recognise from previous Cricks. Some seemed determined not to give up the centre of the canal, or thought moored boats had to be passed with six feet of space, so a couple of times we were in the offside shallows and heeling over a bit. Before long we caught up with a rather slow Canal Boat Club boat, which seemed to go into tickover for every bridge hole. So when it was lunchtime and a nice bit of piling came into view just through Bridge 27, I pulled over and we tied up. There's a nice view here, the solar panel is in sunshine, and it's very quiet, so we decided we'd stay put. There's a winding hole after the next bridge we can use in the morning. Adrian is working anyway, so it makes very little difference where we are. We've seen more boats go by heading for Crick, including MGM's show boat, with Mark and Rachel at the helm.

10 miles, 8 locks. (31 miles, 21 locks)

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Pre-Crick: Journey Day 1

Adrian arrived at a little before 10 last night. This morning we were awake early, and up, showered and breakfasted in time to set off just before 7.30. It was a glorious morning.

We didn't see another moving boat until we were half way up Stoke Bruerne Locks. In fact, the first boat we saw was being carried. It was a pedalo, with two guys going from Birmingham to Brentford for charity. They were on the path on the offside, and Adrian pointed out that the path under the A508 is narrow and low. They decided the proper towpath was better, so put the boat in the water above the lock and pushed themselves across.

At the penultimate lock we met a confused volunteer lock keeper. A boat was coming down and the lock needed a little topping up, so he quite sensibly lifted a couple of top paddles. Then when I arrived he dropped them again. I asked why, and he said there was a boat coming up (us); I pointed out that the lock only needed a little bit of water to enable the downhill boat to use it first, at which point he shrugged and said he didn't know what to do it that situation. I opened the top paddles again and the boat went down. We did the whole flight in an hour and a half.

Blisworth Tunnel wasn't cold but it was wet, and I wished I'd put my coat on. We passed two boats. The railway bridge north of Blisworth has some lovely blue griders underneath. We've been under this bridge loads of times, but I only noticed them when I did a boat test up here a few weeks ago; actually I didn't even notice them then, it was when Andy's photos arrived. They may be making another appearance soon!

At some point after Gayton we passed Jaq moored up, and said a quick hello. We had lunch on the move, then stopped for diesel at Rugby Boats, where we met the new owner, James. Chance was moored in the little marina. At what used to be one of our favourite moorings, before Dodford Bridge, the works for the new road and bridge are in full swing. Tonnes of hardcore are being delivered and compressed

As the M1 came into view, we noticed that the traffic was down to a crawl. We were moving faster than they were. We were making good time, so decided to press on up Buckby Locks. A boat was just coming down the first lock so that was in our favour, but then we were following a rather slow pair of boats, one a single hander, and the other a couple in which the Chinese lady didn't really seem to have fully mastered steering.

We decided to stop in the long pound. We haven't stayed here for a while because the level used to drop alarmingly over night. But work has been done on the lock, and the bottom gates now look pretty water tight. The M1 is still audible, but not as bad as at the bottom. Tomorrow, assuming we don't have a huge delay at Watford, we'll overshoot Crick and spent the night somewhere out alomg the summit pound.

21 miles, 13 locks.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Pre-Crick: messy jobs

Because of work, Adrian can't come up to the boat until this evening, so I had a day of boat jobs to do. The one I really wanted to get done was to scrub the cratch cover, which was looking decidedly sorry for itself -- covered in bird droppings and turning green. I took it off, which is quite a job in itself; I'm sure I've said this before, but you only realise how big a cratch cover is when it's off the boat. I took it up to one of the picnic tables on the bank behind the boat, so I could lay it out and scrub it. What also needed removing were loads of spider nests, under the flap over the cratch board.

After the first scrubbing and rinsing, I left the cover to dry out and went to tackle all the spider nests on the cratch board. I even laid the board down to get under the bit at the bottom. When I went to look at the cover, it wasn't as non-green as I'd hoped, so I gave it another scrub all over, then tried to squeegee off as much of the green water as I could.

Other jobs completed today include driving down to Tesco at Wolverton to stock the fridge and cupboards, and lots of cleaning. I cleaned out the stove and then polished it with stove blacking; I swept through the boat from end to end; I cleaned the shower cubicle.

During the day, I had several visits from a swan who was just going around hissing at people. A better visit was from this crowd.

The day started very cloudy, but the sun has been out for most of the afternoon. Might we get a Crick Show with decent weather this year?

Pre-Crick: work

I had to go to work today, and as the late night trains are replaced by a bus between Milton Keynes and Northampton, I went from MK rather than Wolverton.

Sunday 21 May 2017

Pre-Crick: arrival

I needed to come up to the boat at some point this week as we're heading off to the Crick Show, so it seemed to make sense to come today after work. Both the two rail routes between home and work had engineering works today, so I drove to London (a very long and slow journey), then headed north after my shift. I was pleased to see that even at after 11pm, the batteries were at 100 per cent, charged entirely by the solar panel!

Friday 5 May 2017

Grape Escape on test.

The June edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on Grape Escape by Bourne Boats.  This boat will be at the Crick Show.

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Bank Holiday Weekend: Day 5

The long term moorers on the offside at Cosgrove have clearly never heard of the rule about only running engines when stationary between 8am and 8pm. One had their engine on until almost 9.30 last night, then just a few minutes later another turned theirs on, until 10.15. Then this morning, that same engine went on at 7.30.

Anyway, with the bank holiday over, it was the sunniest morning so far! I had just a miles to do back to the marina, and it was glorious.

There wasn't much breeze, but what there was was in the wrong direction and it was a bit of a chore to get back into our berth. However, I was soon secure and packed up. As I had time, I filled the water tank and also had a root around down the weedhatch, as the propwash didn't look quite right today. There was nothing round the prop itself, but round the shaft was quite a bit of fishing line, complete with a float and a hook still with bait on it -- so I was grateful not to have ended up with that stuck in a finger. It took quite a lot of work with a knife to get it all off.

The solar panel had been doing its work and the batteries were already up to a hundred per cent by the time I set off for work at about 10.15.

1 miles, 0 locks. (43 miles, 14 locks)

Monday 1 May 2017

Bank Holiday Weekend: Day 4

There was quite a lot of rain in the night, but today has been much better than forecast. As we realised we had very little in store for lunch, we put the bread machine on first thing. We set off at about quarter to nine; Adrian brought the boat while I walked to Stoke Hammond Lock.

A Wyvern hire boat was just about to come up, with a family on board. The mother said they'd had some boating holidays a long time ago, but it was a first time for their daughters, and the dog was being a nightmare! It certainly seemed quite keen to get off the boat. Below Stoke Hammon lock there seems to be quite a colony of Mandarin Ducks. The other day I saw four males there, today a male and female.

When we got to Fenny Lock, two boats had just come out but they'd already closed the swing bridge. But first one then anither boat arrived below, and they did the bridge. With so many crew from other boats, we got through hardly lifting a finger. We moored up right behind Valerie and Jaq came on board for a cup of tea. She arrived with her timer, as a cake had just gone in the oven. We chatted for a good hour and a half, remembering her Les, talking about America, and of course congratulating ourselves on having composting loos. At times it was pretty emotional, which is understandable. Jaq will be on the move again soon, so if you see her, give her a hug.

It was about midday when we set off again. Just outside Fenny was a whole procession of boats including an enormous widebeam. I was glad we met it where we did, and not in lots of other places. Around Simpson we started seeing runners taking part in the Milton Keynes Marathon. We saw then on and off right the way through to Great Linford. We had lunch on the move, ticking off the bridges along the long pound through MK. At Stantonbury we caught up with the Jules' Fuels pair, which meant our progress was slowed a bit. We moored up again at Wolverton, as Adrian needed to get a train back to London. Once I'd seen him off, I returned to the boat and set off again. As I crossed the Iron Trunk Aqueduct, I worried that this duck was feeling a bit suicidal.

Cosgrove Lock needed turning, then as I was nearly up a boat arrived at the top. A waiting boat really gets in the way at this lock, so I suggested they come into the lock beside me, and then I would leave -- so for a brief moment there were two boats in the lock, facing opposite directions.

There was masses of space at Cosgove, so in an effort to extend the weekend a little I've moored up, and will do the last mile back to the marina tomorrow, before work.

By the way, well done to whoever has cleaned up the bin compound at Cosgrove. On Friday, there was an overflowing bin outside the compound, while inside looked like a disaster area, with all sorts of things dumped all over the place -- including many which shouldn't have been there at all, like cans of oil, batteries, and gas bottles. It was tricky to actually walk to the bins. While I was there, a man came and took a photo. Today, everything has been cleared, the compound is easily accessible, and all the bins are now inside the fence.

15 miles, 3 locks. (42 miles, 14 locks)